New state law aims to help families with heirs' property

VIDEO: New state law aims to help families with heirs' property
Updated: Jan. 28, 2017 at 9:21 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new South Carolina property law aims to protect family land rights for people who might not be covered by legal documents.

It's called the Clementa Pinckney Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, that helps protect heirs' property. It's property
passed down through generations, but it's in the name of a deceased family member.

Darryl Simmons came out to learn more about the new law.

"I wanted to see the laws that were coming about," Simmons said. "What is going to change, what isn't going to change and were I stand personally and my family."

Darryl Simmons says his family owns 27 acres of land, but there was no will left behind. That's common for heirs' property. It can be a long process to determine who all inherited parts of the property if there is no will.

"Still trying to figure it out but there's six that I know of," Simmons said. 

He came to the informational session at Wesley United Methodist Church for guidance.

When a property has multiple heirs it can complicate things because some might want to keep the land in the family while others might want to sell it. 

Josh Walden is the The Executive Director of Legal Services at the Center for Heir's Property Preservation.

"When you get to the point that you have these multiple, multiple generations of owners and you sort of reach that level, as always agreement is the only way to ensure the property is going to remain safe," Walden said.  "But, this new law does provide additional considerations for the court in their deciding if a sale is going to go through."

Walden wants to be clear that the law does not fix all problems that come with heirs' property.

If a property is sold, the law would require it to be at a fair open-market price, something that didn't always happen, in addition to other provisions. 

"Under the new law it's clarified saying any party who wants to force to sell, the other parties can buy that person's interest out," Walden said.

Though the new law does not change who inherits the land, does not remove the need to agree or even prevent a forced sale,  it does add protections making it not as easy to come to a forced sale of heirs' property, 

"I'm happy in a way because it gives me more information, it gives me something to fight with in case anything goes contrary to the law," Simmons said.

The Center for Heirs' property Preservation hosts seminars on heirs' property and detailed explanations of the new law and how it could impact you.

The center also offers legal services at no charge. For more information visit:

According to the center, heir's property in the Lowcountry is typically rural land owned by African-American families that was purchased after emancipation. The center can help people gain a clear family title to help prevent property loss. 

The information session was hosted by Concerned Citizens of Johns Island and the Johns Island Improvement Association. 

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